Apples in the Basket

(p)© 2005 Timberhead Music        THD CD 15


Gordon Bok

     with Carol Rohl, Elmer Beal, Will Brown, Doreen Conboy, Anne Dodson, Cindy Kallet, and Matt Szostak



The reason I sing so many other people's songs (authors known or unknown) is that the songs teach me how other folks have met and coped with the world, and I am perhaps wiser and certainly more human for having lived with their music in my days and nights.


Here's a trawl through some of the songs that have engaged my life these last few years.  You'll notice a lot of textures here: these songs bring us some interesting lives and beliefs and perspectives, and I am grateful that they've come to inform my own.


I am grateful, too, for all the musician friends who have given their time and spirit so generously to help me here: Doreen Conboy, Elmer Beal, Anne Dodson, Matt Szostak. Will Brown, Cindy Kallet, Bruce Boege, Ken Gross, and the light of my heart, Carol Rohl.


We're the ones you hear now, but there's a thousand more we've sung with and learned from, whose voices give strength to our own, and whose lives nourished ours.


Where possible, I print the oldest sources I have of these songs, no matter how much they differ from the versions that came to me.


Recorded, engineered and mastered by Bruce Boege, Limin Music, Northport, Maine

Mixed by Bruce Boege, Gordon Bok, and Anne Dodson

Produced by Gordon Bok and Anne Dodson

Front Cover and Tray card photograph by Gordon Bok

Opposite page photograph by Chris Pinchbeck

Back cover photograph by Carol Rohl

Programming by Carol Rohl

Graphic design by Ken Gross


The first two months of the year are my time for making albums; luckily, we recorded most of this music in January and February of 2003 and 2004.  When it came time for the final production work, we were in the third month of Carol's stroke.


Pulling the album together has been a welcome focus during these early weeks of 2005.  We're reminded once again that if you really want to do something, don't put it off.



Apples in the Basket   

© 1978 JB Goodenough


"Judy sent me this a long time ago, and I sang it for a couple of years, but I think I needed a lot more miles on my odometer to really appreciate it.  When we sing it, it brings my brother Tony close, and it has become one of our most requested songs."


Gordon – Spanish guitar

Carol- vocal

Doreen – bass viol                                                                             


The sun comes over the top of the hill

Shines on the fields I've yet to till

My bones are weary but  I know I will

And not just because you ask it

            Rake and hoe on twenty-penny nails

            Milk lies sweet in a dozen pails

            Hay piled up in a hundred bails

            And apples in the basket


A house that's tight to the wind and snow

A barn that's full of the things we grow

Empty purse, but I don't owe

A thing to any man living

            A woman warm, a woman kind

            A woman that knows her own sweet mind

            A woman that knows just what's behind

            The things that she's forgiven


There's branches on the family tree

A boy, a girl, and a baby's three

They look like her, they look like me

Like folks that's dead and gone now

            But I don't care, we're all the same

            There's none to bless and none to blame

            We're doing in the family name

            The work we carry on now


The old grey goose in on the wing

But he'll be back again next spring

Each year we do the same old thing

And the same old wheel goes spinning

            When the air is warm and the earth is sweet

            And the good clean dirt is on our feet

            The circle comes around complete

            And the end is the beginning.


(Repeat first verse.)


The Recruited Collier   

Traditional England


I used to enjoy accompanying Louis Killen on this song on the rare occasions we managed to sing together.  I finally asked him to teach it to me.  "Paid the smart and run for the golden guinea" – a bribe for the recruiting officer to let her man go.


Gordon – viol                                                             


What's the matter with you me lass, and

            where's your dashing Jimmy?

The soldier lads have picked him up, and

            now her gone far from me

Last pay day he went into town, and them

            red-coated fellows

Enticed him in and made his drunk; he'd

            have better gone to the gallows


The very sight of his cockade, it set us all


And me, I nearly fainted twice: I thought

            that I was dying

My father would have paid the smart and

            run for the golden guinea

But the sergeant swore he'd kissed the book,

            and not they've got young Jimmy


When Jimmy talks about the wars it's worse

            than death to hear him

I have to go and hide my tears, for truth, I

            cannot bear him

But aye, he jives and cracks his jokes, and

            bids me not forsake him

For a Brigadier or a Grenadier he says

            they're sure to make him


As I looked o'er the stubble fields – below it

            runs the seam -*                                                *coal mine

I thought of Jimmy hewing there, but that

            was just a dream

He hewed the very coals we burn, and when

            the fire I'm lighting

To think the lumps was in his hands, it sets

            my heart a beating


So break my heart and then it's o'er; aye,

            break my heart, my dearie

And I'll lie in the cold, cold ground; of a

            single life, I'm weary



Los Tres Panuelitos   

Traditional Chile


When I was working winters in Philadelphia in my twenties, friends there would bring me back music from South America and help me figure it out.  The one came from the group "Los de Ramon de Chile," and I onlu sing the first three verses: Whoever named you, Consuelo, was not aware of your destiny.  He should have just made a cross, an don it, the word "pain."  I am going to have a fiery handkerchief embroidered, that says on one corner: "Leave me!" And on the other: "Why are you going?"


I sang the song alone for years, and then with Carol on the harp, until it finally occurred to me that I wanted to hear my old friend Elmer Beal sing the lead vocal; his voice is much more suited for it, and his Spanish is much better than mine.



Gordon – 12-string guitar

Carol- harp

Elmer – lead vocal

Gordon – Second Elmer                                                 



The Maiden in Bird's Plumage

(Nilus Erlandson)

Words Traditional Denmark/ music © Gordon Bok, BMI


From A Book of Danish Ballades (Princeton University Press, 1939), translated by E.M. smith-Dampier.  A friend loaned me this book.  In the introduction, it says that by the 15th century these ballads were often combined with dances.  Quite often they had a burden which the dancers would sing with every verse (like "So the knight hath won his lady"). These ballads wandered back and forth between countries, so they might well have existed in many languages at once.



Gordon – Spanish guitar


It was Nilus Erlandson

Rode forth the deer to take

And there he saw the lily-white hind

That ran through bush and brake

(So the knight hath won his lady)


He chased her, Nilus Erlandson

That longed for her so sore

But swift was she, and still did flee

For three days' space, and more


Now snares he set in every path

Where'er a beast might go

But all so wise was the lily-white hind

That he could not take her so


Sir Nilus all through the greenwood

Rode on, and rode in vain

His hounds loosed he by two, by three

To run her down amain


Now can she spy no way to fly

So hot the hounds pursue

Her shape she changed to a falcon fierce

And aloft in the air she flew


Her shape she changed to a falcon fleet

And perched on a linden green

All under the boughs Sir Nilus stood

And sighed for toil and tene


Sir Nilus hath ta'en his ase in hand

To fell the linden-tree

When forth there sprang a forester

That smote the shaft in three


"And wilt though fell my father's wood

And all to do me wrong

I promise thee, Nilus Erlandson

That thou shalt rue it long!"


"Now let me fell this single tree

This tree alone of thine

For but I can take the falcon fell

I die of dule and pine!"


"Now hark and heed, thou fair young knight

The counsel that I bring

Ne'er shalt thou take her til she taste

The flesh of a tamed thing!"


A gobbet he cut from his bleeding breast

Right bitter pain he knew

She flapped her wings and down she dropped

And on the bait she flew


She flapped her wings and down she flew

And on the bait she fell

And she changed her shape to the fairest maid

That ever a tongue might tell


She stood in a sark of silk so red

Where the linden-tree did blow

And all in the arms of Sir Nilus

She told her tale of woe


"Oh I sat and broidered lily and rose

My father's board beside

When in she came, my false stepdame

Whose wrath was ill to bide


"She shaped me all to a lily-white hind

To run in wild greenwood

And seven maidens to seven grey wolves

And bade them drink my blood"


The damsel stood 'neath the linden-tree

And loosened her golden hair

And thither came they that erst were wolves

But now were maidens fair


"Now thanks to thee, Nilus Erlandson!

Hast saved me from hurt and harm

Never shalt thou seek slumber

But on my lily-white arm


"Now thanks to thee, Nilus Erlandson

Hast set my sorrow to rest!

Never shalt thou seek slumber

But on my lily-white breast"



A Shearer's Lament

Words: Matt O'Connor/ music © 1997 Martyn Wyndham-Read, Fellsongs Publishing


I learned A Shearer's Lament from Ed Trickett and we used to sing it and Waiting for the Rain together.  Martyn Windham-Read says about the lyrics, "The words for a A Shearer's Lament were written by Matt O'Connor who was an itinerant shearer (in Australia.) Back in the '60s he used to send in poems and contributions to a Folk Magazine and A Shearer's Lament was one of his.  The magazine wrote back to him to a P.O. Box address which he had given, but they never received a reply or any other contribution from him, and presumed that he had passed on."



Gordon – 12-string guitar


We finished shearing sheep out west of the Paroo

And it's rained three inches – we don't know what to do

A week ago the sand was loose; the dust blew every day

And no w the mud is two feet deep and we can't get away


I've just been talking to the boss- you all know Hector Cope

He says the Bull is two miles wide – to cross it there's no hope

You hear a lot of people swear about the dough we make

But they forget the price of beer and all the combs we break


Well, why I took this job on, I just can't understand

If the bloody sheep ain't waterlogged, the cows are full of sand

A man is doubled up all day, half-blinded by his sweat

And when the darkness comes around, cooped up in a mozzie net*  


It might have been a good job once; those old hands had their breaks

They pushed a cart from shed to shed and lived on johnnycakes

They had more time to do the job – they worked nine hours a day

And after paying for their grub, one pound-a-hundred made


I think I'll give this job away; I'm tired of being greasy

I've heard about a fencing job – they tell me it's dead easy




* mosquito netting


Waiting for the Rain

Words: John Neilson/ music unknown


The words to Waiting for the Rain are based on a poem by John Neilson and the author of the melody is unknown.  I learned it from Ray Wales, originally of New South Wales, Australia.  He had a lot of unidentified recordings he's made off folk radio in the '50s and '60s – many of the songs were recorded by Dave de Hugard,  I learned many years later.  Australian songs are probably from de Hugard's singing; he's a magnificent singer in whose footprints I've been honored to plod.  This is pretty much as I heard it. 


Gordon – 12-string guitar


Well, the weather had been sultry for a fortnight's time or more

The shearers had been battling might and main

And some had got the century as never did before

And now all hands are waiting for the rain

The boss is getting rusty and the ringer's caving in

His bandaged write is aching with the pain

And the second man, I fear, is going to make it hot for him

Unless we get another fall of rain.


Well, the sky is clouding over and the thinder's muttering loud

The clouds are driving eastward o'er the plain

And I see the lightning flashing followed by an awful crash

And I hear the gentle patter of the rain

So lads put on your stoppers and let us to the hut

We'll gather 'round and have a friendly game

And some are playing music and some play ante-up

And some are gazing outward at the rain


Well, now the rain is over, let the pressers spin their screws

Let the teamsters drive the wagons in again

And we'll block the classer's table by the way we push them through

Since now all hands are merry since the rain

And the boss won't be so rusty when the sheep have all been shorn

And the ringer's wrist won't ache so with the pain

Of pocketing a season's check for fifty pounds or more

And the second man will drive him hard again


So boss, bring out the bottle and we'll wet the final flock

For the shearers here may never meet again

And some may meet next season and some not even then

And some they will just vanish like the rain




© Alfredo Rolando Ortiz


Alfredo was born in Cuba, and emigrated to Venezuela as a young boy where he began studying the Venezuelan Arpa Llanera.  He has become one of the greatest proponents of Latin American music in the harp-world.  He now lives in California.  Carol learned these two tunes from his book From Harp to Harp with Love.  He wrote these tunes ti illustrate the Joropo rhythm.


Gordon – Spanish guitar

Carol- harp



The Black Furrow

Words © 1973 George MacKay Brown / music © 1966 Gordon Bok


A poem by one of Orkney's greatest folklorists and poets.  Here, a fiddler takes a dare and ends up in a place he should have stayed well away from.


Gordon – 12 string guitar


"Darst thu gang b' the black furrow

This night, thee and they song?"

"Wet me mooth wi' the Lenten ale,

I'll go along."


They spied him near the black furrow

B' the glim o' the wolf star.

Slow the dance was in his feet

Dark the fiddle he bore.


There stood three men at the black furrow

And one was clad in grey.

No mortal hand had woven that claith

B' the sweet light o' day.


There stood three men at the black furrow

And one was clad in green.

They've taen the fiddler b' the hand

Where he was no more seen.


There stood three men at the black furrow

And one was clad in yellow.

They've led the fiddle through the door

Where never a bird could follow.


They've put the gowd cup in his hand,

Elfin bread on his tongue.

And there he bade a hunder years,

Him and his lawless song.


"Darst thu gang through the black furrow

On a mirk night, alone?"

"I'd rather sleep wit' Christian folk,

Under a kirkyard stone."




The Old Figurehead Carver

Poem © 1925 H.A. Cody/ music and chorus lyrics © 1966 Dick Swain


Dick Swain found this wonderful poem in an old book Songs of a Bluenose by H.A. Cody.  Dick gave this to Carol and me as a wedding present having made a handsome tune and chorus for it and, of course I had to learn it, woodcarver that I am.  Cody was a preacher and a poet in Saint John, N.B. where the Marco Polo was built.


Gordon – Spanish guitar

Anne, Carol, Cindy, Matt, & Will - vocals


I have done my bit of carving

Figureheads of quaint design

For the Olives and the Ruddocks

And the famous Black Ball Line

Brigantines and barques and clippers

Brigs and schooners, lithe and tall

But the bounding Marco Polo

Was the proudest of them all


            And while my hand is steady, while my eyes are good

            I will carve the music of the wind into the wood


I can see that white-winged clipper

Reeling under scudding clouds

Tramping down a hazy skyline

With a Norther in her shrouds

I can feel her lines of beauty

See her flecked with spume and bring

As she drives her scuppers under

And that figurehead of mine


'Twas of seasoned pine I made it

Clear from outer bark to core

And the finest piece of timber

From the mast-pond on Straight Shore

Every bite of axe or chisel

Every ringing mallet welt

Brought from out that block of timber

All the spirit that I felt


I had read of Marco Polo

Till his daring deeds were mine

And I saw them all a-glowing

In that balsam-scented pine

Saw his eyes alight with purpose

Facing every vagrant breeze

Saw him lifting, free and careless

Over all the Seven Seas


That was how I did my carving

Beat of heart and stroke of hand

Blended into life and action

All the purpose that I planned

Flowing robes and wind-tossed tresses

Forms of beauty, strength, design

Saw them all, and strove to carve them

In those figureheads of mine


I am old, my hands are feeble

And my outward eyes are dim

But I see again those clippers

Lifting o'er the ocean's rim

Great white fleet of reeling rovers

Wind above, the surf beneath

And the Marco Polo leading

With my carving in her teeth



Heading for Home

Words and music © 1990 Peggy Seeger, administered by Bucks Music


I learned this from Peggy Seeger when we taught at a music camp together in New Hampshire.  This is what she said about the song:  "This is my thank you song to friends, family, those who have taught me and whom I have taught – and to all the good people with whom I shared time on earth."


Gordon – 12-string guitar



My face to the sky, my back to the wind

Winter is entering my bones

The day has been long, night's drawing in

And I'm thinking of heading for home

And I'm thinking of heading for home


The cradle and grave, the fruit and the seed

The seasons mirror my own

The geese flying south are calling to me

And I'm thinking of heading for home

And I'm thinking of heading for home


Always on the move with banner unfurled,

Yet gathering moss on the stone

I sing for the children and cry for the world

And I'm thinking of heading for home

And I'm thinking of heading for home


As Time's my old friend and Death's my new kin

I'm not taking the journey alone

I am old, I am young, I am all that I've been

And I'm thinking of heading for home

And I'm thinking of heading for home


The memory of love will burn in my heart

Till embers and ashes are gone

The light in your window is my northern star

And I'm thinking of heading for home

And I'm thinking of heading for home



Mussels in the Corner

Traditional Newfoundland


Can't remember where or when I learned this song, but the 'ghosts' verse was given to me by Greg Brown, a fine Newfoundland fiddler, when we were performing in Texas a few years ago.  The tine on the end is Ragtime Annie (or Raggedy Ann) that I used to play with the likes of Havilah Hawkins Sr., and Adrian Beal (of Stonington and Beal's Island).  We played for a lot of dances out in the island towns when I was in my roaring twenties.


Gordon – 12-string guitar

Anne, Cindy, Matt, & Will - vocals


'Deed I am in love with you

Out all day in the foggy dew

'Deed I am in love with you

Mussels in the corner


I took Jenny to a ball

Jenny could not dance at all

Sailed her up 'longside the wall

Left her there till Sunday


All the people from Belle Isle

Don't get up till half past nine

Wash their face in kerosene oil

Polly, you're a corker


Here they come as thick as flies

Dirty shirts and dirty ties

Dirty rings around their eyes

Dirty old Tor Bay men


Here they come as white as ghosts

Bay men in their little boats

It's a wonder that they floats

Dirty old Tor Bay men


Ask a Bay man for a smoke

He will say his pipe his broke

Ask a Bay man for a chew

He will bite it off for you



Bay St. Mary/In the Cove

Music © 1977, BMI / words © 1981 Bill Leavenworth


I made (or captured) this tune coming down the French Shore of Nova Scotia.  Nick Apollonio helped me remember it, all the way home across the Bay.


Bill was working as skipper on the crew boats for the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and he made this poem while driving home one winter.


Gordon – laud, 12-string guitar

Carol – harp


On my last trip long ago

I rolled in the swells off Isle Au Haut

And sang to myself with every seam

The song that sleeping whales dream.

From the whale path 'round Isle Au Haut

A sleeping whale answered, singing so,

Each to the other we gave the song

Till morning fetched a chance along

And they swing me off and headed home,

Whalesong trailing back in foam.

They passed my berth, nor brought me 'round

But up the cove and hard aground

They drove me; here I'll lie

While time and whales pass me by.

But summer evenings through my sides

Phosphorescent sluicing tides

Bring singing of a far off whale

Along the roads I used to sail.

When nothing's left but mud and frame

And all are gone who knew my name

May my simple boat's soul go

To a whale, singing off Isle Au Haut.



Tie Her Up                                

©2000 Mary Garvey


Mary says about this song: "I was taking this little ferry from Westport, Oregon to Puget Island, Washington (Near Cathlamet).  It is a big island in the middle of the Columbia River, lots of dairy farms, heavily Scandinavian.  We used to go there every Christmas day for some reason and drive past the Sons of Denmark Lodge and the Sons of Norway and Sons of Sweden and probably Sons of Finland as well.  Anyway, I saw this little boat tied up on another little island the words more or less just popped into my head. 


The Larson family name came from when I was working at the School of Fisheries in the U.S. and I met a young man by that name who talked about his family heritage of fishing for many generations.


I also think of little John Aronson, a first-grader whose family all fished, and he saw no need to go to school as he already knew all about fishing.  Likewise little Melvin Charles, a Native American boy from "all three tribes" who could diagram where everything fit in his father's boat.  And the boys of Labrador who met me on the ice one day and had to show me their boat, which they had actual shares in… All of these bots are men now and it would be interesting to see if they are fishing…"


Gordon – 12 string guitar

Carol – vocal


Tie her up and let her rot, for it soon with be forgot

That we ever built the boats to match the men

Puget Island born and bred to the grey skies overhead

And we'll never see the likes of her again


Tie her up and let her rot, for the last fish that I caught

Never brought enough to buy the gas that day

When you're going after salmon it is feast or it is famine

And it looks like Mr. Famine's here to stay


Tie her up and let her rot, for I think it matters not

Where my father's father's father fished before

From the river to the sea – now it ends right here with me

There will be no Larsons fish here anymore


Tie her up and let her rot, for the sons that I begot

Have earned their fame and fortune on the land

And they laugh when they explain they don't miss the wind and rain

But it's just not in my blood to understand


Tie her up and let her rot, for I've found a pretty spot

And I can't afford to lose another dime

And if the floods wash her away, well, who am I to say

And she'll run this mighty river one last time



Stone on Stone

© 1991 Dave Goulder, Harbourtown Music


A fast year-in-the-life of a master drystane dyker (dry stone wall builder), writted by himself.  On this song I play a big old Casals Spanish guitar that a shipmate rescued in Mexico City and brought back to me when I was living on a boat in Connecticut.  I've strung it to play six frets low: it is very happy there.


Gordon – Spanish guitar


Now that autumn is returning and the garden fires are burning

And the summer beasts are learning how to cope with shorter days

There I labor all alone piling stone upon the stone

Feeling just a touch of sadness as the summer slips away

As I roll the stone upon the stone


Working in the frosty weather when the stones are stuck together

Lifting divots, soil and heather as I pries them from the ground

And a little work is done till the weak and wintry sun

Loosens up their icy grip and I can lay me hammer down

As I roll the stone upon the stone


The barometer is falling and the forecast is appalling

And the working folk are crawling through the January storm

Gales 8 to 10* all day almost blow the stones away

And my brain has turned to porridge by the time I head for home

As I roll the stone upon the stone


Now the winter storms are ending and the days are soon extending

And an early lark ascending has me looking round for spring

Stones taken from the land are warm under the hand

And my cup is running over with the pleasure of the thing

As I roll the stone upon the stone


Soon the wall is moving over belts of willow, herb, and clover

And the weasel and the plover watch me slowly pass them by

And the air is full of winds as a million stinging things

Set me yearning for October in the middle of July

As I roll the stone upon the stone


*On the Beaufort scale Force 10 is a whole gale



The Hills of Isle au Haut

© 1970 Gordon Bok, BMI


I made this after a trip as mate in the old Brixham Trawler Provident in 1964 (I believe).  The Plymouth here is in England, Pedro Martir is a mountain on the coast of Spain where we made land, Cascais is a town down the river from Lisbon, and Isle au Haut is a mythical island off the coast of Maine.


Gordon – 12 string guitar

Anne, Carol, Cindy, Matt & Will vocals

Doreen – bass viol


It's away and to the westward

Is the place a man should go

Where the fishing's always easy

They've got no ice or snow


            But I'll haul down the sail

            Where the bays come together

            Bide away the days

            By the hills of Isle au Haut


Now, the Plymouth girls are fine

They put their hearts in your hand

And the Plymouth boys are able

First-class sailors, every man


Now the trouble with old Martir

You don't try her in a trawler

For those Bay of Biscay swells

Will roll the head from off your shoulder


And the girls of Cascais

They are strong across the shoulder

They don't give a man advice

And they don't want to cook his supper


Now the winters drive you crazy

And the fishing's hard and slow

You're a damn fool if you stay

But there's no better place to go